life services

2018 Annual Report!

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YOUTH EMPOWERMENT PROJECT - YEP
YEP mentored 175 elementary students - YEP’s pioneered the first ever Rotaract at Muskegon High School!

13 of the 17 YEP graduates of 2018 are now in college -16 YEP’s participated in a tour of 4 colleges  - 45 YEP’s were trained and employed last summer earning a total of $65,000 for 7,000 hrs of work. YEP’s were trained in Photo Voice, rehabbing homes, urban farming, lawn maintenance and camp leadership.

READING BUDDIES
33 volunteers served 70 K-6 sstudents from Nelson Elementary School 35 hours a week

“Reading Buddies is a powerful program!  Every child that worked with reading buddies this year made over their yearly growth.  As a teacher it is so helpful to have other adults to sit and read one on one with my kids.  There is just no substitute for that. We greatly appreciate our Reading Buddies!” -Muskegon Public School Elementary Teacher.


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BETHANY HOUSING
68 working wage families/individuals rented affordable homes or apartments and contributed to community life as neighbors.

HOMELESS SERVICES
1,482 households representing 4,770 neighbors experiencing evictions or homelessness received housing assessments and information to resolve their housing crisis - 559 neighbors experiencing homelessness or evictions were connected with a Housing Navigator to stabilize their housing crisis - $175,000 invested in short-term leasing assistance for to prevent or end homelessness.

HOUSING PLUS
13 neighbors transitioned from homelessness into supportive, affordable housing - 111 formerly homeless neighbors (including 45 children) continued to participate in ongoing services.

SENIOR MILLAGE
$110,000 invested in 21 homes across Muskegon and Muskegon Heights - That means new roofs, plumbing, windows, furnaces, water heaters, steps, flooring, and landscaping to help out seniors age in place.


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MUSKEGON PRESCRIBES FOOD FOR HEALTH - MPFH
46 neighbors graduated from MPFH in 2018, investing 12 hours in food education classes, learning to cook with fresh produce from McGrows, helping patients achieve their medical, nutritional, and social goals.

MCLAUGHLIN GROWS URBAN FARM
Grew & distributed 7,000 lbs. of food -and developed a third farm site, ready for 2019 production. Employed & trained 6 high school youth farmers who mentored 600 younger youth at the farm - Engaged over 450  volunteers.

McGrows provided over 120 moments of opportunity for our community to interact with, learn about, and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm, including the Farmers Market, Senior Power of Produce markets, on-site farm stands, Community Supported Agriculture programming, and McLaughlin Grows “Food to Pantry” donations.


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DOWNTOWN CHRISTMAS STORE
104 neighborhood families shopped for 283 children - 36 neighbors volunteered - Received $5,800 in gift and donations from YOU!

SACRED SUDS
2,693 Neighbors visited Sacred Suds  9,795 times - “Broke bread” together over 3,865 lunches - Washed 4,054 loads of laundry - 1,494 showers - Completed 164 income tax returns (assisted by 2 rock-star volunteers, who brought back almost $140K into core city neighborhoods) - 166 neighbors volunteered over 4,600 hrs.

URBAN IMMERSION
10 women from Muskegon County Jail served at Community enCompass to reduce their time and learn new skills (2 gained employment with Community enCompass after graduating!) - 400 volunteers from local and national faith-based organizations, contributed over 90,000 hours rehabbing and beautifying core-city neighborhoods!


2018 FINANCES

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HEALTH and POVERTY in Muskegon

HEALTH and POVERTY in Muskegon

15% of Muskegon County residents have a certified disability, 25% higher than the national average. 41% of Muskegon county residents live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty level,  22%* higher than national average. These numbers alone are sobering, so this month we are taking the opportunity to educate ourselves about the links between poverty and health, health and poverty.

We all hate tax season.

Tax season is always a headache. The forms, the numbers, do you file as a household or individual? Do you qualify for one of the seemingly thousands of different Tax credits? Do you file online or by mail? The forms themselves seem specifically designed to confuse and baffle. They leave you with a sense that maybe you ticked the wrong box, that carries on for weeks after. Some of us forego the stress and pay for others to prepare our taxes for us, buying the peace of mind of knowing if anything goes wrong, it wasn't our fault.

Out goes the old, in goes the new

Thanks to the generosity of the Muskegon Community, Sacred Suds is able to celebrate the practical impact of neighbors helping neighbors with the installation of eight new dryers and three new washing machines at Sacred Suds.

Out goes the old...

Out goes the old...

In order to give a practical demonstration of the power of your gifts consider a simple comparison of the cost of laundry at Sacred Suds vs. the cost of laundry at a community laundromat.

Six loads of laundry for an average family of 4 at a local laundromat, including the cost of soap and other laundry incidents would equal $21.00 per visit. That is $3.50 per load or $1,092.00 annually.

The same 6 loads of laundry washed at Sacred Suds, with our new state-of-the-art high-efficiency machines, and the provision of soap and other laundry essentials provided for free, costs $12.00 per visit. That is $2.00 per load, $624.00 annually, and provides each family a yearly savings of $468.00.

In 2016, while operating at 75% of our capacity due to failing machines, 3,002 loads of laundry were done at Sacred Suds. An average of 250 loads per month. At 6 loads of laundry per family, we assisted at least 42 families each month, providing monthly savings in our community of $19,656 or $235,872 annually.

Your gifts have increased our capacity to 100%, as we move into 2017 and beyond.  Sacred Suds is now able to serve a minimum of 53 families monthly, generating monthly savings of $24,804 or $297,648 annually. In addition, we have a quieter environment, happier neighbors, dependable facilities, and we are already seeing increased usage.

...in goes the new!

...in goes the new!

This would not be possible without the generous support of the individuals and organizations who have provided support for our new washers and dryers, generous on-going gifts of laundry supplies, and enthusiasm for the work we do. Our neighbors would have a much more difficult time addressing this basic need and making use of the limited resources they have.

We are a privileged community, creating a sacred space within our city, with our laundry facilities operating as one of our essential community hubs.  

And we have been equipped by our individual donors who gave generously to support this initiative of Community enCompass; community partners such as Great Lakes Dental, Men Who Care, Mercy Health, The Greater Muskegon Service League, The Muskegon Chamber of Commerce Women’s Division, and many others who have given to this initiative and/or to our ongoing laundry needs by providing soap and other laundry supplies. You have given us the tools to help neighbors in need! Thank you!

We look forward in the upcoming weeks to providing you an opportunity to see the wonderful things that you have helped accomplish. Be watching for an opportunity to tour the updated facilities at Sacred Suds, and hear about the exciting things we have planned as we move forward. You are truly helping us rebuild community among those who have at times felt abandoned by community!

Click here for more pictures of our new machines!

"I Am Neighbor" - Shawn

The greatest wealth is health
— Virgil

The cost of health is a conversation that comes up regularly with our neighbors. The cost of health care can cripple a family.  Even when wise health decisions are made, exercise is frequent and diet is healthy, the “unforeseen” can blow a hole into anyone's reality. Highly publicized social media campaigns  among other things have been utilized and supported,  just to help people cover the cost of being well again.
  

Shawn at home in her favorite chair.

Shawn at home in her favorite chair.

 For Shawn the “unforeseen” was a large beautifully ornate piece of furniture, which ended up taking  3 years out of her life. “I was hauling a big book case, like the ones in a lawyer's office, with 3 other men. One of the guys dropped his corner, and I tried to compensate for it. It felt like I had pulled a muscle, so I thought, ‘It’s Friday….Whatever, I’ll just grab some Tylenol,’ and I went home.” That pulled muscle turned out to be a crushed disk in her neck and a pinched nerve. She lost all feeling in her right hand and arm. It was fixable, but she would be out of work for months.

Shawn was working for an antiques restoration shop, a small company with only a handful of employees. When she spoke with her employer about health coverage after the accident, she was told that because she did not fill out an accident report form the day of the accident, the accident didn’t happened within work hours, and they were, therefore, not obliged to help cover the cost. None of her colleagues were willing to risk their jobs to vouch for her, so she had to take her employer to court, just so she could keep paying the bills.

Shawn dressed up as a nun and her daughter dressed as Hillary Clinton for Halloween

Shawn dressed up as a nun and her daughter dressed as Hillary Clinton for Halloween

Months later, after enduring torrents of verbal abuse from her ex-employer, the judge ruled in favour of Shawn. Shawn had  the forethought to record all conversations she had on the phone with her ex-employer, including the abuse. The judge ruled that either the employer paid Shawn worker’s compensation, or he would face legal charges of harassment and abuse, charges he would lose too. He chose the worker’s compensation.

The whole situation left a bad taste in Shawn’s mouth: She had been ostracized by other employers in the area and couldn't find work.  But she had to keep paying the bills.  So Shawn and her young daughter moved to Muskegon for better opportunities.

 To make the situation worse another “unforeseen” hit. After Shawn’s first surgery the doctor told her that they had found evidence of a degenerative bone condition in her spine. Unfortunately the condition is hereditary: her brothers, mother, and grandpa all have it. Her vertebrae are compacting down, literally crumbling away. Since discovering it, Shawn has had two more surgeries fixing some of her vertebrae, but ultimately there is no cure.  She can have other surgeries, but the main deterrent is physiotherapy, exercise, and pain management for the rest of her life.  And that's not cheap especially when there's no money coming in, so Shawn signed up for Medicaid.

Unable to find work, with worker’s comp running out and bills piling up, Shawn finally had to claim disability benefits. They pointed her in the direction of a local veterans housing facility. Shawn had served in the 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard as an oboe player. She had signed up with her parents permission right out of 11th grade,  and was honorably discharged months before the 126th was set to deploy to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm as medics in 1990.

“I jokingly say, ‘I defended Michigan with my oboe: STAND BACK, or I will play!’” It was this experience that qualified her for the free non-permanent, dorm room apartments. It was better than nothing, but after the allotted time, Shawn and her 11-year-old daughter were out on the street. With no place to go and no money for rent, they ended up in the Muskegon Rescue Mission.

Shawn didn’t want to be there. “It was really bad for us,” Shawn recalls.  Shawn was breaking the rules, smuggling food in for her daughter who would cry herself to sleep at night due to hunger.  “At some point I just realized, ‘‘I need to get out of here!’ My daughter was losing tons of weight, she was being really quiet and was intimidated by the other women there.”    

It was around this time that Shawn came across Community enCompass, quite by accident. She had seen signs for the Learning Lab, a computer room at Community enCompass open to the community where people can find help with job applications and resumes among other things, and she wandered in. It was here she overheard conversations about military housing assistance. Shawn was told that Community enCompass had resources to support female veterans with families. Two years later Shawn shares a two-bedroom bungalow with her daughter, who is in high school. Shawn pays part of the rent, and Community enCompass pays the rest. Through the help of West Michigan Works, Shawn found work with Pioneer Resources, providing care for people with physical and mental disabilities. Shawn enjoys her work. The physicality of it keeps her active, which helps with her spinal condition, and the work is flexible. She works part time so she can continue attending her physical therapy sessions.

One of Shawn's hobbies is to revive dying plants.

One of Shawn's hobbies is to revive dying plants.

Between Shawn's initial accident with an ornate bookcase and her finding her job with Pioneer Resources, Shawn was unemployed for three and a half years. As she looks back over the years of struggle, she is thankful. “It is definitely a blessing: my church, my family, and Community enCompass. I don't know where we would be without them. They are a strong part of what has gotten us this far.”

“Unforeseen” things can push anyone over the edge into poverty, vulnerable housing, or even homelessness. Accidents, medical conditions, the insensitivity of others, can all pile up on top of each other until everything breaks down. At Community enCompass, we encounter neighbors whose realities have been swallowed by their struggles to survive. We make it our business to walk alongside neighbors so that they are able to do more than survive.  Shawn and her daughter have incredible gifts to share with society, and she is in a place now where she can offer them up.  We are so proud to call Shawn neighbor, and look forward to seeing how her gifts add value to our community!  

 

"I Am Neighbor" - Bob

Autumn days are shorter.  Mornings are colder.  Anticipation swells for the colors of the season. It’s a time of plenty: the market is full of produce; stores are full of candy; neighborhood windows are full of cobwebs. Children are looking forward to the holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

For Bob, the anticipation he feels is more aptly described as fear. For the roughly 2,400 homeless people like Bob in Muskegon County, winter is a time of hardship.

Click the image for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Click the image for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Bob didn’t always live in his friend's garage. After getting a qualification in accounting in the 80’s the financial market crashed, so Bob moved into Muskegon's busy manufacturing industry. Similar to the financial market, the manufacturing market in the USA also crashed. Like the rest of Michigan, Muskegon's manufacturing started to slow and shut down: Factories were closed; jobs moved overseas; thousands of people were slowly laid off. After 9 years in his position, Bob also was reshuffled, and then, because he cost the company too much money, he also was sacked.

Bob moved on to another manufacturing job through a temporary work service. Despite continually being told that the company would be hiring full permanent positions soon, he was surprised to find himself unemployed again after the company decided to move their business to China.

Again Bob moved on, this time to work at a die cast facility that produced automobile parts.

“It was during that time GM went belly under {sic},” Bob says.  The facility panicked because they had lost major contracts and had to cut costs.  Bob was not an essential employee. “I didn't get my 90 days, so I had to go.”

Bob moved on once more, doing landscaping and working for a cleaning agency until his Landlord decided to sell off the property. “I stayed there for another 3 or 4 months doing odd jobs and helping out with plumbers and stuff, just to be an extra pair of hands,” but when the work was completed, Bob was left with nowhere to go. It was winter and the cold, icy temperatures left Bob with one choice--The Rescue Mission.  

When the cold of winter had passed, Bob moved his life into a storage unit.  “I ended up on the news. ‘Homeless man sleeping in storage unit.’  It was kinda true, kinda not: you gotta do what you gotta do to keep tugging along.” That's exactly what Bob does, despite the circumstances, despite his health, he keeps tugging along.

He currently sleeps in a friend’s garage, moving around every couple of weeks and has his belongings scattered around other friends’ houses. Bob walks everywhere.  He doesn't drive, and couldn't afford the cost even if he wanted to. Finding work has depended on his ability to travel, having to rely on his friends for transport if the work was too far for him to walk.

Earlier this year, Bob was referred to Pathways to Better Health of the Lakeshore, a  Mercy Health Community Benefit Program that helps develop care plans for vulnerable people with two or more chronic diseases. From there he was referred to Community enCompass, where he was connected to Housing Resource Specialists who are helping him navigate towards permanent housing.  Bob is currently waiting for a Section 8 Housing Voucher so that he can get off the streets and back on his feet.  He’s also waiting on a disability claim. On top of Bob’s chronic illnesses, he also has back problems and is blind in one eye. Like 30%* of the homeless population of Muskegon, Bob’s health prevents him from working. Yet like the season, Bob’s still moving on.

Autumn is here and Bob is left waiting. He volunteers at Sacred Suds, a community center and day shelter program of Community enCompass.  He also does occasional yard work for his church. Bob has no certainty in his future: where he will be staying, if he will be working, what will happen with his health.  All Bob knows is that if nothing changes, he'll face no choice but to go back to the Mission for the winter.  

We would like to thank Bob for sharing his story and for agreeing to keep us updated as he progresses. Unfortunately, Bob's story is all too common in Muskegon, but it is integral to changing the narrative and helping the broader society better understand the challenges faced by homeless people

*Data taken from the MHCCN Annual Data Report 2007-2015

Veterans-A view from the front line.

John Taylor, our Veterans Coordinator, last afternoon spoke at a Roll Call Event to End Veteran Homelessness. This event was coordinated by the Muskegon County Homeless Continuum of Care Network to highlight our participation with the MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency as part of Michigans Pledge to End Veteran's Homelessness.

Here's a summary of what John, a veteran himself had to say;

"I have the opportunity to briefly share with you from the Frontline. This is what I see when I am working with a homeless veteran. Like each one of us, they are beyond simple categorization, but there are some commonalities I regularly see.

The signed Pledge.

The signed Pledge.

I see VULNERABILITY

  • Our veterans are not victims, but they are vulnerable

  • Many have been taught by their training to not recognize their vulnerability

    • Health Issues; Some service-related

    • Relationship Issues; Some have experienced the indescribable

    • Reintegration issues; For some, the world is never the same

  • Many of these hard-working, caring men and women are self-medicating

  • Some are on the edge of death; often minimal, timely intervention can save a life;

  • Consider how quickly 11 days passes; That’s how long it took this Summer between the last contact, and the death on the streets of one of our most vulnerable veterans;

  • As a community, we need to equip ourselves; pledging to work together to move faster, improve our processes, house these veterans and provide them services.

  • This is not just a VA (Veterans Affairs) problem. This is our problem. And it can no longer be tolerated.

John's our Veterans Coordinator and a Veteran.

John's our Veterans Coordinator and a Veteran.

I see VALUE

  • These are individuals who are trained with a special skill-set;

  • But they are also able to quickly learn new skill sets, when they have a safe-haven, so they don’t have to be in battle mode. That’s why we must support Housing First. To give our veterans a sanctuary, a place of respite, a home; while we provide support and other services they may need.

  • This tells them that we think they are valuable. That we recognize their importance to society. That we value their contributions. That we think they have worth.

 

 

I see VICTORY

  • When set with a task, these men and women get the job done;

  • But they are trained to not go it alone;

  • They move as a team; "I've Got Your 6 " (I Have Your Back)- We become their team. We support them in battle; We have their backs;

  • And our veterans are coming home! Let’s work to bring the rest home; We can do this. We can end veterans homelessness; we can help them once again believe in and experience victory!"

"I Am Neighbor" - James Erving Emmendorfer

"I was running out of work so I chose to move up to Newaygo, to be with my girlfriend. Three days after Christmas, three and a half years ago she kicked me out of the house, because I didn't find a job and I didn't get my unemployment and the only place I could find to go at the time was Muskegon Rescue Mission, so that's what brought me to Muskegon.

Click on Jim's portrait for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Click on Jim's portrait for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

I was living in my vehicle in a friend's house across the street and I found out this (Sacred Suds) was a good place I could do laundry and take showers and have coffee and a doughnut and lunch once in awhile. It’s very beneficial so it really helped me out.

I became a volunteer because it helped me and I wanna help other people and pass it along, and it's very beneficial, this place for helping homeless people that's living on the street or may not have water at their house…….I like to help people and pass it along.

I found out about all these other programs I can use to benefit me and other people. It’s been a struggle for three and a half years, but now I’m back on my feet and I just like to volunteer and as I said, pass it on.

I just started so I think I’m gonna be working the front desk once in awhile or whatever they need me to do: cleaning or sweeping, I don’t mind, landscaping, it don’t matter; whatever they want me to do.

Through Sacred Suds I heard about Community enCompass and Section 8 (affordable housing) that helps veterans like me and other people that have been homeless, now I live in Norton Shores in a community complex thanks to Sacred Suds and Community enCompass and section 8 housing. My income? I got disability. I applied for disability and won my disability case.

I’m doing really good. I like volunteering and passing it along so that other people can benefit too."

Jim volunteers at Sacred Suds and can be found getting his hands dirty in the garden or doing odd jobs around the building.